Saturday, June 04, 2016

Owners, Operators Of Supportive Living Facility To Cough Up $630K To Resolve Housing Discrimination Allegations That It Applied A "No Mental Illness" Policy To Flatly Reject Any Tenants Revealing That They Have A Mental Health History, Regardless Of Circumstances & Without Proper Screening Or Assessment

In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) recently announced:
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced [] that it has reached a $630,000 agreement with a group of Illinois property owners and a management company resolving allegations they violated the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by using rental screening policies that prevented applicants with mental disabilities from living in a supportive living complex the group owned. Read the agreement.

    The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of a dwelling on the basis of disability. In addition, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
    The case came to HUD's attention after several individuals with mental disabilities filed complaints alleging they were denied residency at the property managed by Eden Management, LLC, due to their disabilities. The individuals filed their complaints with the assistance of HOPE Fair Housing Center, a HUD Fair Housing Initiatives Program agency in DuPage County. HOPE conducted three tests at Eden and also filed a complaint with the Department.

    Under the terms of the Conciliation and Voluntary Compliance Agreement, Eden will pay Complainants $630,000, which includes relief and attorneys' fees and costs. The agreement further requires Eden to make significant policy changes, including revising its admissions manual and handbook; updating its non-discrimination statement; establishing a reasonable accommodation policy; and conducting fair housing training for employees.

    Furthermore, the company will develop a protocol to apply objective admissions criteria, notify all applicants of their due process rights, and refrain from asking applicants about the existence of mental disabilities or prescriptions during tours of the facility. Eden will also provide a letter to their top three referral sources encouraging individuals to apply regardless of mental disability.
Source: HUD Announces $630,000 Agreement With Illinois Property Owners, Managers Accused Of Discriminating Against Applicants With Disabilities.

See also, O'Connor v. Eden Management for a related federal lawsuit that was filed in connection with this matter, and which was settled as part of the above-referenced HUD Conciliation and Voluntary Compliance Agreement. According to this lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged, among other things:
  • The Eden Defendants have a “no mental illness” policy, which is readily communicated to applicants for housing. Plaintiff O’Connor was denied housing by the Eden Defendants on the mere threshold basis of having a “mental health history” or “mental health diagnosis.”

    HOPE Fair Housing Center received complaints about Eden’s “no mental illness” policy and conducted testing that confirmed it. O’Connor and HOPE Fair Housing Center (“HOPE”) challenge the Eden Defendants’ discriminatory policy of categorically denying housing and services to any and all people with mental health diagnoses in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended (“FHA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“§ 504” or “the Rehabilitation Act”).
    The Eden “no mental illness” policy is uniformly carried out by Eden representatives, who flatly reject any tenants from consideration who reveal informally or formally that they have a mental health history, regardless of their circumstances and without proper screening or assessment.